My Mental Health Journey

Back in 2016, I shared for the first time that I’ve struggled with depression. Today, I want to share more about my mental health journey and where I am now. I believe that breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness starts with breaking the silence.

My mental health journey is ongoing. I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness, and I’ve never been medicated for one, but I can still say I’ve struggled and continue to struggle with depression, anxiety, and anger-management issues.

My depression and anxiety began when I was a teenager. I struggled with insecurity, as many teenagers do. I often felt rejected by my peers. I constantly worried about what other people were thinking about me, and I often felt sad and hopeless about life. The normal demands of life and school felt like too much.

I developed a very close, but dysfunctional friendship with another girl my age. We became almost everything to each other. But, she struggled with her own insecurities, and she often took it out on me by tearing me down.

Then I met Cory, who is now my husband. He became my best friend. He was kind, caring, and fun to be around. We were just friends at first.

It was during that time when I started feeling more and more hopeless about life. I started thinking a lot about suicide. I never had an urge to hurt myself, but I did wish that I could go to sleep and not wake up. I just wanted life to be over.

I never made an attempt on my life, and thankfully, with the encouragement of my friends, I came out of that emotionally dark time.

Cory and I fell in love, and I started to see that I had a bright future to look forward to. At the time, I believed in Jesus, but he wasn’t the King of my life. In all honesty, Cory was my everything at that point. Looking back, I can see that God used him to give me hope and joy in my life when I desperately needed it. And after a time, I started to lean into God more and more. Eventually, I was able to lead Cory to Christ, and together we’ve continued to grow in our faiths since then. (Today, God has the rightful place as King in my life—and Cory’s).

In college, I struggled with anxiety more than depression. I would worry about the strangest things, like if I was walking weirdly, or if people thought I looked awkward. I had a very hard time sleeping at night because I became afraid of the dark and being alone. Cory would stay in my dorm room with me until I fell asleep, or I would sleep in his room, almost every night.

I began seeing a therapist for the first time. She helped me with my anxious thoughts, and I enjoyed talking to her. After I got married and then withdrew from the university, I had to stop seeing her, but I felt well enough by that time to be okay with that.

I struggled with depression and anxiety on and off in the years between getting married and having our first child. For me, depression isn’t debilitating, and it’s not all of the time. I have what could probably be described as “low-level” depression, and it comes in relatively short waves. I feel depressed for a few days, or a couple of weeks at most, and then I feel better for a few weeks. Sometimes, the depressed feelings are more frequent, like once a week. But overall, I feel good more often than I feel bad.

My anxiety is usually related to social situations, or occasionally related to fear. It’s not as “obvious” as my depression, which is why I wasn’t even able to label it clearly for myself until just this year.

With both depression and anxiety, I am able to hide it extremely well from others. I have a mask that I can put on, quickly, easily, and completely. Nobody would know unless I let them. And for most of my life, nobody has.

Anger is also very connected to my depression. I’ve struggled with anger management for most of my life, and when I’m feeling depressed, I have an even harder time with it.

After my first child was born, my anger and depression became things that I could no longer ignore. I began losing my temper with my baby. I never hurt him, but I hated that I would raise my voice and feel so frustrated with him. He was a high-need baby (both of my babies have been), and it was really hard.

My depression worsened when my baby was about 10 months old, and I suspected late-onset postpartum depression. I went to see a therapist, once again. I didn’t continue therapy for long, because it wasn’t affordable for us and I wasn’t sure it was helping. Since I was “functional,” I didn’t see it as a necessity.

This year, I finally started seeing a therapist again. Originally, I went in with the goal of evaluating my son for anxiety issues, because at the age of 3 ½ he was still unable to accept separation from us for any amount of time without completely falling apart. After the first couple of sessions, and some suggestions for ways to help him overcome his separation anxiety, I decided that I wanted to continue seeing her for my own struggles.

She was my favorite therapist thus far, and I really enjoyed seeing her. Unfortunately, it became too challenging to take the kids with me and be constantly interrupted by them, and her hours didn’t allow for me to go by myself.

Then I discovered a website called Better Help, which offers online therapy at a more affordable rate than a traditional in-person therapist. I began my message-based therapy with my new therapist, and immediately loved it. I was able to express myself in the best way I know how, through writing, and I could write to her any time I wanted. Her responses were always thoughtful and helpful. I really enjoyed therapy through Better Help.

At the end of November, I decided I was ready to stop therapy, and I cancelled my subscription (after talking to my therapist about it, of course). I’m in a place now where I feel like I understand my depression, anxiety, and anger better, and I have the tools I need to handle those challenges.

Of course, some days are better than others. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m starting a new “depressed” cycle, and remind myself that it’s only temporary. It always passes within a few days, or at most a couple of weeks. I remind myself that I can have some bad days in a really good life. I give myself some extra slack during those times, and wait it out.

My anger is still an active struggle. There are things I can do to help me feel balanced and happy, which enables me to manage my emotions better. Sometimes I do those things, and sometimes I don’t. Depression makes it harder to want to do those things, and that’s probably one reason they are so connected for me. But I can see progress, slowly but surely, in this area. I just have to keep moving forward.

My anxiety is a lot better now than it has been in the past. I’ve learned to embrace who I am. I don’t have to be the social butterfly, or the perfectly put-together mom, or anything else that I’m not. I can be the quiet one, who’s a good listener, and is kind, and helps others, and doesn’t bother putting on makeup. I can be the one who loses her temper a lot, but is always working on becoming better.

I can lean on God, knowing that He says I am enough, and that His Spirit is working in me to change me, slowly but surely, into someone more like Christ.

In the Bible, Paul wrote about a “thorn in the flesh” that he suffered from. We don’t know what it was, exactly, but this is what he said about it:

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV)

My mental health struggles are my thorn—especially my anger. It’s a part of me that I have asked God to remove, and something I’ve tried to fix myself many times. This Bible verse has become one of my mantras. God’s grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in my weakness.

I am not perfect, and that gives God room to work.

When It’s Time to Quit

In early 2014, almost 5 years ago now, I began a journey to become a life coach. I felt it was something I was called to do, and I was very excited about it! When my son was born, I decided to put that on hold. So it wasn’t until the middle of 2017 that I finally completed my training and graduated as a life coach. Then, I had to put it on pause yet again when my daughter was born.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working hard on launching my coaching business. I created a blog, and put a lot of time and effort into making it perfect. I did everything I was supposed to do to gain followers and eventually, clients. And yet… I’ve gotten nowhere with it.

Just like I when I tried to make this blog, I Do… Now What? into a real business a couple of years ago, it just hasn’t worked out. I didn’t gain a single follower last time, and it’s the same story this time.

For some reason, blogging as a business just isn’t working out for me!

It’s frustrating, for sure. I feel misled by all of the bloggers I’ve read about and followed who say that they make a full-time income blogging. I don’t know how they do it, but it seems that no matter what I do, I can’t make even the smallest progress towards any income from my blog. Like I said, frustrating.

But, I can accept it when it’s time to move on from something. For me, it’s time to move on from trying to make money as a blogger, and it’s time for me to move on from trying to be a life coach.

It’s a bit sad for me to say that, but it’s also freeing. Now I can focus my energies on other things!

My coaching blog, Family on Purpose, will stay alive on the internet. I’m not going to completely delete it or anything. I’m still proud of it, and I hope it can help people be intentional in their marriage, pregnancy and birth, and parenting. That was why I created it. If somebody finds it someday and it leads them to my coaching services, then I would still welcome the opportunity. But that’s not something I’ll be actively trying to achieve anymore.

As always, I Do… Now What? will still be here, a place for me to share my life, thoughts, and experiences with you, my readers. I’m not going anywhere!

Spiritual Lessons from My Journey into Motherhood

 

Being pregnant was such a special time in my life. Although I didn’t have the most comfortable pregnancies, I did really enjoy the process of bringing new lives into the world.

Currently, I am not planning on becoming pregnant again. Instead, my husband and I plan on adopting a baby. Reflecting on my journey into biological motherhood over the past few years, there are a few important lessons I have learned.

 

Childbirth Doesn’t Have to be Terrifying

Before we were married, I went through a phase of thinking that I would never want to have children. At first, this was mostly due to fears about the birth process, and how horrible and scary and painful it would be. The simple mechanics of it just seemed horrifying. I have a low pain-tolerance, and a phobia of needles and medical environments in general. I didn’t want to have to face any of that. I thought that instead, we should adopt—even knowing deep down that having biological children was part of God’s plan for me.

Counter-intuitive though it may seem, learning about natural childbirth was the thing that started to change my mind about birth. I learned that women’s bodies were made to do it. I learned that birth doesn’t have to be medicalized. I learned about midwifery, homebirth, and using hypnosis for childbirth. I learned about supernatural childbirth, and how my faith in God can be used powerfully to experience a better birth. These things gave me the confidence I needed to overcome my fear of childbirth, and welcome the opportunity to bring babies into the world with the miraculous gifts of pregnancy and birth.

 

The Risk Is Worth It

There’s a saying that becoming a parent is like choosing to have your heart walk around outside of your body. And it’s true! Being a parent is incredibly risky. You love this other person so much that it’s beyond words, and the idea of them ever getting hurt or making a bad decision is terrifying to you. You have everything invested in your children, and yet very little control over what happens to them. That idea scared the living daylights out of me, and it was one of the reasons I was afraid to become a parent.

It took a very painful experience for me to understand that the risk of losing a child, while terrifying, does not outweigh the worth of being a parent. Being a parent has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life, and I couldn’t imagine not having this privilege. I was meant to be a mother. It’s one of God’s callings on my life that I can’t deny, no matter what pain or risks I have to face.

But I had to learn this through the experience of pregnancy loss. My husband and I lost our first baby, Sam, only six weeks into our pregnancy. At first, I was in a place of anger, utter heartbreak, loss of trust, and loss of hope for the future. Other people’s words of comfort often felt like a slap in the face to me. They told me that I should hold on to God, but I was furious at him. They told me to keep trusting him because it was all in his plan, but I felt like my trust in him was broken. Most of all, I despised it when people told me that we could try again. The thought of trying again, of putting myself at risk for heartbreak again, was a terrible thought. I felt that it wasn’t worth the risk.

It was from this place of darkness that God showed us the light. Through the guidance of some godly people in our lives, God showed us the simple truth that he is good. We learned that our miscarriage was not God’s doing or his plan for us, but an attack from the enemy. We also learned that God is bigger and stronger than our enemy. We learned what living victoriously in Jesus really means.

Without those lessons, we wouldn’t have been able to handle the fear, as parents, of “what might happen.” Instead of living in fear, we trust and believe that God has his hand over our family. I don’t have to worry about what might happen to my kids because I know that God’s got them. They are in good hands.

 

The Big Picture

Sometimes, even with strong faith and trust in God, we can experience loss and trials in this world. It is a broken world, after all. We may not be of this world (as Christians), but we are still in it.

I try not to entertain thoughts of what might happen in scenarios of my greatest fears. I believe that we should discipline our thoughts and train ourselves to think about good things, not horrible ones. But I do have an understanding that my faith might not always protect me or my family in this world. Bad things could happen. Christians can lose their children tragically, just like anybody else.

But instead of fearing for this, I focus on the big picture. The big picture is my human approximation of what God sees. He sees things in light of eternity! This life seems so big to us. It seems like everything. But what we often forget to realize is that compared to eternity, this life is just a drop in the bucket. What we also often forget to realize is that compared to an eternity in paradise with God, this life is basically a poop parade.

Now, I know that sounds pretty negative. But it’s not, I promise! Realizing that this life, our bodies, the earthly things we have, and our comfort in this lifetime is all temporary… well, it’s actually so freeing. If we lose our earthly lives, we gain something better– eternal life. As long as you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, that is!*

So if my faith is not always enough to save my kids or myself from suffering, or even death, then I can have peace and comfort and joy even, knowing that there is something unspeakably wonderful ahead.

As a parent, there is no greater comfort. I know that it’s going to be okay, literally NO. MATTER. WHAT. There might be suffering, but suffering is temporary. An eternity of JOY is ahead, and that is something to celebrate. This is why we praise God! Isn’t he awesome?

 

 

*Have you accepted Jesus as your savior yet? Do you want to? You can, right now!

Just pray this prayer:

God, I know that I am not perfect. I have sinned, and that means I am not worthy of you. But I believe you sent your son Jesus to Earth, and he lived a perfect life and he died on the cross, as a sacrifice for me. Jesus, I invite you into my heart right now. Please come in and forgive me of my sins. Make me right with God. Help me live my life in a way that pleases you.

In Jesus name,

Amen

If you prayed that prayer, then you are now a redeemed child of God! You just made the best decision you could ever make. Your eternity is secured! Go ahead and celebrate that. And please share it with someone. Leave me a comment or send me a message. Go find a church you can be a part of, and continue to grow in your faith.

8 Pets and Counting

I love animals. I always have, since I was a little girl. Having a lot of pets has brought me joy throughout my life, and I couldn’t imagine not having them around!

When I was a child, I had bunnies, a tortoise, turtles, parakeets, mice, a hamster, dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. My dad also had iguanas and a snake. And as a young adult, I had cockatiels. When it comes to pets, I like variety!

As a child, I wasn’t taught well about being responsible for my pets’ care. I wasn’t the best young pet owner, and I hate to think about the fact that my childhood pets did not have the lives they deserved. As an adult, one of the things that brings me joy through pet-ownership is knowing that I am giving my pets a great life. I have a high standard of care for my pets, and a high level of commitment. I now realize that adding a pet to the family is a big commitment, and shouldn’t be made lightly!

But anyway.

Currently, I have four dogs, two cats, and two mice. Let me introduce them!

Marley is our 13 ½ year old mutt. We think he has American Pit Bull Terrier, American Foxhound, and Labrador Retriever in him.

My family of origin adopted him from a shelter when I was 13 years old, and he was about one year old. He came to live with me when I got married.

He’s always been gentle and low-energy, and has become even more so with age. He’s struggled for most of his life with severe separation anxiety, and anxiety in general, but for the past year or so he has been doing great.

Sky is our eight year old American Eskimo Dog. (She’s considered to be “miniature” size, not standard). My husband and I adopted her from a rescue when she was about three years old, before we had our first child.

Sky is the friendliest, happiest dog I’ve ever had. She adores people, strangers and family members alike. She gets along with any dog or cat she comes across. She’s a total sweetie!

Lila is our almost-three-year-old Jack Russell Chihuahua mix. We adopted her from a shelter when she was about two months old (and weighed about two pounds!).

Lila has been the most challenging dog we’ve owned. She absolutely refused to be potty trained as a puppy, and it took professional board-and-training to get through that difficult stage. Now that she’s grown, she’s a very sweet and saucy little dog. She is the most timid of our dogs, and doesn’t approach new people or dogs easily. She’s probably the smartest dog I’ve ever had, though.

Macy is our newest dog. She’s a one year old purebred American Pit Bull Terrier. We bought her from a local breeder when she was two months old, and just about the cutest thing in the world.

Macy has been the easiest-to-train dog I’ve ever had. I like to say that she’s my “soul-dog” (like soul-mates, but for owners and their dogs). Something about her just connects with my soul!

She is also a huge people-lover. When we go to the dog park, she’s on the bench with the humans. She’s very submissive to any new dogs she meets, often to her detriment because she’s too timid to play. But when there’s a scuffle, she’s quick to run over and referee!

Luna is our five year old Tuxedo (black and white) domestic shorthair cat. We adopted her from the shelter when she was about four years old (a year and a half ago). She’s very low-maintenance, quiet, keeps to herself, and lives primarily upstairs away from the dogs. She does love (and demand) attention when we go upstairs though!

Leo is our eight month old black kitten. We adopted him from the shelter when he was three months old (and barely two pounds). The best word to describe Leo is… dauntless. Even at two pounds, he had no problem running around with our four dogs. He is zero percent shy. He also does what he wants, one hundred percent of the time. Luna was less than thrilled when we added this wild creature to her peaceful life! But, she’s adjusted, and they only tumble around in a screeching ball of fur and whiskers once or twice a day now. ;D

Harriet and Hazel are our mice. They are sisters, and we bought them from the pet store when they were not quite fully grown, probably about two months old. We’ve had them for almost a year. Mice don’t have the longest lifespans, so we’ll likely only enjoy them for another year or so at most. (Then again, they can sometimes live up to three years, so we’ll see!) I think mice are so cute! There’s not much else to say about them, but they generally spend their days cuddling up together, sleeping, and eating. Mice are very easy to handle, and my kids are always delighted when I take Harriet and Hazel out so they can pet them.

That’s it for now! In our current location, we are limited to four dogs. In our current home, we do not have room to comfortably fit any more litter boxes, so that means no more cats either. In fact, we really don’t have a good space for any small pets either, because I’d want to keep them in a separate room to keep them safe from our cats and dogs.

However, when we do move to a bigger house (and/or a house with some land!) we do plan on adding more pets to our family. On my short list are parakeets, a lizard (Blue-Tongued Skink to be exact) for my son (which I will primarily care for), and either bunnies or guinea pigs or both.

In 2017 we lost our three guinea pigs (they were killed by our dogs), only three months after losing our fourth (who died of an illness). We were devasted, and still miss them terribly. But because I am quite allergic to guinea pigs, we might want to have bunnies in the future instead.

I am not certain I want any more cats, but we will see. Leo was adopted because I had a dream about him! Yes, seriously. He was in my dream, and the next day I went to the shelter and found him. True story. 🙂

But anyway, the point being, I didn’t necessarily want more than one cat until I suddenly did. So who knows! We may end up with more cats and possibly more dogs, on top of having other types of pets.

On my long wish list are other animals including donkeys, chickens, tortoise(s), pig(s), goat(s), ferrets (if they ever become legal in my state), maybe ducks, and perhaps a sugar glider. I wouldn’t mind having cockatiels again if we were able to safely house them in a separate area of the house from us, because they are very loud.

So that’s about it! Pets are definitely an addiction of mine, but I do care a great deal about being responsible with them. Animals add such joy to my life, and I love that my kids are able to grow up with animals in their lives.

No Bad People

In church today, I heard a challenging message about honoring authority. By nature, I have a tendency to dislike authority. Outwardly, I have been raised to be respectful toward authority figures. But in my heart, I am often resentful and rebellious. I’ve been exposed to too many authority figures who have abused their power, and it has made me distrustful.

In church, we started with reading a Bible verse, Romans 13:1-2, which says: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

Already, I started pumping the brakes. Wait, does this mean that God put Hitler in power? Osama Bin Laden? The Pharoah who enslaved the Israelites? What about the president of North Korea? These rulers have done evil things. Most people would call them evil people. Yet God put them in power?

Apparently, not only did God establish their positions of authority, but I am called to honor them. Honoring evil dictators is not something I can easily do, in my heart, or outwardly. I didn’t even know where to begin.

As a less dramatic example, I struggle with honoring President Trump. I didn’t vote for him, I would not have chosen him as the President, and I disagree with the attitudes he portrays, the words he says, and the actions he takes. I believe his actions are immortal, unloving, and against God. How am I to honor such a person?

Well, as usual, I started by researching. I read article after article about honoring the dishonorable, honoring authority while participating in civil disobedience, and the practical meaning of honoring people in general.

The best explanation I found goes something like this. Yes, God puts authority figures in power. No, God does not desire for those authority figures to do evil things, and he does not accept those evil actions. However, he has purposes and plans that we can’t always see or understand.

For whatever reason beyond me, God chose to put Hitler, and Bin Laden, and yes, Trump (sorry for the extreme juxtaposition), in power. We know that his plans are for the good, and that even when evil things are done, he has an eternal perspective and a plan for the good. All we can do is trust him in these situations.

So fine. I can accept that God arranged (not just allowed) President Trump to be elected, despite the immoral things he has said and done both before becoming president and during his presidency. But still, I struggle with honoring him.

Honoring means to hold in high esteem or to have great respect for someone. Respect means to feel a deep admiration for someone. Am I honestly being commanded to deeply admire and esteem President Trump? (Trump supporters can substitute President Obama).

Yes! And it’s not as impossible as it might sound.

We can do this by finding the fine line between our feelings and our choices. We can distinguish between honor and obedience, friendship, agreement, or enabling.

Let’s break this down.

I can honor a person’s position without submitting to their immorality. If the government passes a law that is contrary to God, I can still respect the government without obeying that immoral law. In fact, I am commanded to disobey that law and instead submit to God’s authority.

I can honor a person without enjoying their personality, or supporting the evil things they do.

I can honor a person without agreeing with them.

I can honor a person without enabling them to continue to do evil. I can honor an authority figure while still working respectfully and calmly to remove them from authority, or pursue justice for their evil actions, or affect change in how their authority is used.

So if I don’t have to blindly obey, enjoy, support, agree with, or enable a person to honor them, what do I have to do?

What does it actually mean, in practical terms, to honor somebody?

We can honor people by looking for things to respect. Even if 99% of the things a person says or does are not worthy of respect, we can look for the 1%. There is good in everybody, because we are all made in God’s image.

Which brings me to the next point. We are all made in God’s image, and we are all his creation. We can honor people by recognizing that they are God’s masterpiece.

We can honor people by remembering that God loves them. God loves them so much that he died for them. And if they have accepted Jesus, whether that shows on the outside or not, then they are also children of God, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. We are all loved by God.

We can honor people by viewing them through a lens of compassion. We are all imperfect and flawed. Yet God extends his grace to us, and we can also extend it to others.

We can honor the likelihood that most people are just doing their best. Sometimes, a person’s best falls far, far short of what we expect at a minimum. But still, most people want to be good people and do what they think is right. They are trying. Sometimes, what a person thinks is right is completely distorted and evil, but they don’t see it. They are blind. Whether they deserve it or not (and none of us do, really), we can honor them nonetheless.

My favorite way is this: we can honor people for their potential. Everybody has potential to be used by God. He has taken the dirtiest sinners and turned them around to do great things for his Kingdom. Nobody is too far gone for God to use for good. We can honor that potential in other people, no matter how much we despise the things they have done in the past and perhaps the things they are still doing.

When it comes to authority figures, from our parents to our bosses to police officers to our President, we can also simply honor the position. We may not know the person well (or like, or agree with them), but we do know that God put them in their position of authority, and we are called to honor that. (Of course, we are also called to use our influence to help bring godly people into positions of authority, and remove ungodly ones. We can still do that respectfully. And whether or not we succeed, we are called to pray for those in power, that God would use them for good.)

I think when we fully absorb this attitude of honor, we will reflect that in our hearts and in our words and actions.

Instead of saying that somebody is a bad person, I can say that they have done bad things. I can honor them as a person who God created, loves, and sees potential in. When I label a person as “bad” it leaves no room for change. When I label attitudes, words, and actions as bad, but still honor the person, I leave room for God to work.

I think that is the key to this command to honor those in authority, and those around us. We do our best to see God in each person, and in doing so, we leave room for him to work.

Schoolin’

Here is a peek inside my Pre-K Homeschool curriculum for Cody this year!

Book List

Bible:
Children’s Bible – 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible by Ura Miller
Memory Verses – My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts* by Susan Hunt & Yvette Banek
Devotional – A Little God Time for Kids: 365 Daily Devotions
Language Arts:
The Random House Book of Fairy Tales by Amy Ehrlich & Diane Goode
The Big Purple Book of Beginner Books by various authors including P.D. Eastman (There are also Blue & Red editions with stories by P.D. Eastman)
The Big Green Book of Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss (There are also Orange & Aqua editions with stories by Dr. Seuss)
Any treasury story book that you and your child enjoy will work well

Reading:
First Thousand Words (in English) by Heather Amery & Stephen Cartwright
LeapFrog LeapReader (electronic pen) with Learn to Read 10 Book Bundle

Art:
The Art Book for Children by Phaidon Press
Art Lab for Little Kids by Susan Schwake

Poetry:
Eric Carle’s Animals Animals
A Treasury of Mother Goose Illustrated by Hilda Offen
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children by Jack Prelutsky
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry

Science:
The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature
Is the Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? By Robert E. Wells
How Do You Lift a Lion? By Robert E. Wells
What’s Smaller than a Pygmy Shrew? By Robert E. Wells
What’s Under the Sea? By Sophy Tahta
Why Do Tigers Have Stripes? By Mike Unwin
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty
Science Learn and Explore Pre-K by DK Workbooks

Social Studies:
People by Peter Spier
Then and Now by Heather Amery
Things People Do by Anne Civardi
Stories from Around the World (Retold by Heather Amery)
Workbook: (pre-writing, thinking, numbers)
School Zone Big Preschool Workbook

 

How I Chose My Curriculum

Originally, I planned to use a pre-organized curriculum by a company called Sonlight. They create Christian, literature-based curriculum packages for preschool through high school. After ordering my package, I received the items and started out following the very well-organized Instructor’s Guide. Each week has a memory verse and a song of the week, and each day has a Bible story, along with selections from the various books included in the curriculum. There are also optional activities that can be done.

As I started out, I quickly realized that the books included are for the most part, quite old. I understand the value of classics, but when the majority of the books in a curriculum are published in the 1980s, I think it might be time for an update! Additionally, many of the books are by the same authors or publishing groups. It makes me feel like I’m only exposing my child to one person’s way of thinking, instead of teaching from a variety of sources.

So, after only a couple of days of that, I decided to keep what I liked and choose different books for the rest. I quickly ended up with my own curriculum, and have only kept a few things from Sonlight, mainly because I don’t want to go through the hassle of returning them for a partial refund, and I didn’t want to further delay our start of school by waiting for all new books.

I started out by deciding what subjects I wanted to study with my child. The core subjects I came up with were Bible, language arts, reading, science, social studies, and math. Since Cody is still too young for true math, we are learning the basics of numbers this year, and we do that mainly through his workbook. Bible is the subject we study every day, and we also do something in the reading category daily. That left me with three subjects to rotate through. I decided to make it five, so we can study one subject each day and go through all of them in a week.

Because I actually enjoyed the poetry selections from Sonlight, I chose that subject and picked a few new books. To round out the curriculum, I chose art as our final subject. (Next year, for Kindergarten, we will study Spanish and Math as a full subject, so I will have to rearrange accordingly).

After choosing our subjects, I simply went shopping for books I liked. I chose a few for each subject, based on what I felt was needed. Some books are large collections we will work through over the course of the year, and others are ones we will read for a few months, or perhaps only once.

 

What Homeschooling Looks Like for Us

Every day we review our memory verse for the week, then we read the Bible story for the day. We are currently using the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide for our Bible verse and story selections, but next year we will use My ABC Bible Verses, which can be reused for several years, and read chronologically through the Read and Learn Bible, which we already have.

He repeats the Bible verse (in short pieces), and I remind him briefly what it means. While reading the story, I ask him questions to help with comprehension and keep him engaged. The stories are short, and the pictures are lovely, so that helps.

Next, we choose a subject to focus on for the day. We have a jar with popsicle sticks, and each subject written on one stick. He chooses one and moves it to the “done” jar, and that’s the subject we study that day. The options are: Stories (Language Arts), Science, Art, Social studies, and Poetry.

For each subject, we typically read a few pages from one of the appropriate books, and possibly do an activity. We have the freedom to choose which book we want to read that day, and how much we want to read. I keep an eye on his attentiveness, and stop when I’m satisfied we’ve done enough and he’s beginning to lose focus.

Then we do some reading practice. We either look at a few pages of First Thousand Words, and practice reading the words and finding the objects in the pictures, or we read through one of his LeapReader books using his electronic pen.

We end by doing a few pages in his workbook, one of his favorite parts of school. I flip through and try to pick a variety of activities, and he likes to pick which ones to do as well. I usually have to tell him when we’re going to be done, because even though he loses focus, he says he wants to do more.

That’s it for our “formal” schooling during the day time. It usually takes us 20 minutes or so to do all of that, not including any activities we might do. We also have a devotional we read together as a family at bedtime.

As homeschoolers, we also see life skills as an important part of our children’s education. While he’s a bit young right now, we plan to teach cooking, cleaning, money management, nutrition, fitness, self-defense (through karate) and any other subjects they show an interest in.

The formal part of homeschooling sometimes seems intimidating to people, but I’ve found that at least at this early stage in our journey, it’s actually quite fun to choose books and subjects you want to explore together. Then you just start! One day at a time, they learn. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and Cody enjoys it too.

 

Happy First Birthday, Abigail!

My little baby is now a one year old! The time has flown by even faster the second time around.

Abigail is a very sweet, curious, active, and silly girl. Here are some of her traits and quirks at the age of one:

She likes to put on things like socks and hats and shoes. If she sees shoes on the floor, she will try to put them on her feet, or if they’re adult-sized, she’ll settle for wearing them on her hands and sliding around the floor on hands and knees. When she sees her own shoes, she insists on wearing them. Socks are also a frequent target.

She still puts a lot of things in her mouth. She especially likes to find tiny pieces of whatever on the floor to put in her mouth. Although I vacuum often, it’s impossible to keep up! I have to watch her closely to keep her from eating things she shouldn’t. She also likes to put things in her mouth that stretch the limits of what her mouth should be able to hold, like a ping-pong ball. (Little weirdo.)

She is becoming more vocal, and makes all sorts of silly sounds. Her and Cody spur each other on in making loud and silly noises, then cracking each other up laughing. She doesn’t say any words regularly, even though she has said “mama” and “dada” a few times.

She hit two milestones before her first birthday: her first teeth finally emerging, and her first independent steps. She now has two front bottom teeth just peeking out, and it looks like her two front top teeth will be next. As for walking, she doesn’t use it as a primary way of getting around yet, but she thinks it’s super fun to stand up, take a few steps, and bask in our adoration.

She loves dancing to music she likes, usually something with a beat. Her trademark move is to twist side to side with her arms out and elbows crooked. More recently, she’s been experimenting with some foot-stomping. 🙂

Abigail is still quite clingy, but she is more willing to go to other people to be held than Cody was at this age. She accepts brief separations from us with little fussing. Cory and I can attend church services together, go on date nights, and let family members help us with the kids when we get together! It’s a treat.

Around the house on a daily basis, it’s unpredictable whether Abigail will want me to hold her all day or perhaps play independently for some of the time, allowing me to get stuff done. The first kind of day is hard, because I’m very task-oriented and being handicapped by a baby demanding to be held constantly is frustrating. The second kind of day is less common, and very appreciated. It will be nice as she gets older to see her become more and more independent, and get a little bit more of my own time back.

Part of Abigail’s clinginess is her habit of grabbing the shirt of whoever is holding her. She almost always has one hand fastened tightly to the neckline of my shirt. It’s becoming more common for her to take it a step further and shove her hand right down my shirt. This can be annoying when we’re in public and she nearly exposes me to the world. I also have to put my foot down when she starts getting a little too “touchy feely.” (Here’s one of the weird things I’ve had to say all too often as a parent: “Stop touching my nipple!”)

Unfortunately, Abigail’s naps are not very good. She takes only one nap most days. ONE. At this age, Cody was just transitioning from three to two naps. Abigail is already down to one, and I fear for what lies ahead. Her one nap isn’t anywhere near the luxurious three hour naps Cody used to take up to the age of three. Nope, she’ll give me an hour on a good day. (Maybe up to two hours on a marvelous day, but sometimes only 40 minutes on a not-so-great day).

Even that one nap is often a struggle. She usually falls asleep nursing or in the carrier, and I attempt to move her to her bed. We recently bought a crib for her (the first crib we’ve ever used, since Cody never had one). We put her down there for her naps, and we reserve the right to plop her in there at bedtime if she decides to pull another midnight wake-up party.

On a happier note, she is an excellent eater. She eats many foods, and is not picky. Almost anything we set in front of her, she will eat enthusiastically. Of course we have to serve her foods that are soft enough for her, and cut into small enough pieces, since she only has two tiny front teeth. But that doesn’t stop her from being a little foodie! It’s so lovely to see our child happily eating fruits and vegetables. Cody didn’t eat ANY solid food until he was two years old, and even now at almost-four, he doesn’t eat fruits or vegetables except on a rare occasion. So suffice it to say, it’s wonderful to see Abigail enjoying food so much at this age.

That’s pretty much it! Abigail is a joy, and seems to only get cuter by the day.

 

 

Happy First Birthday, my sweet girl! Mommy and Daddy and brother love you sooo much! You are my treasure.

 

Happy 11 Months Birthday, Abigail!

Abigail is now 11 months old. I. Just. Can’t. I know I say this every time, but it’s going too fast!

This month, she has really started showing a passion for climbing. She climbs on the kids’ table, any chairs that are short enough for her, and the slide. She climbs into baskets, toy boxes, and dog crates. She climbs onto the bed and couch, and climbs down by herself. (Usually we help her because she’s not as proficient as we would like yet). She can stand up on her own with no support, and she walks around with support. She sometimes uses a kids’ chair as a walker.

When she’s not climbing, she’s searching for tiny things on the floor to show us. She holds them up proudly for us to see, right before putting them in her mouth. Obviously, she keeps us on our toes! She also likes to sit next to the bookshelf, tear all of the books off, and then pick one up and flip through the pages. Fortunately, they’re board books, so they’re sturdy.

She loves our cats. Cody was more into the dogs, but Abigail isn’t as fond of them. She tolerates them, but never seeks them out and occasionally will be upset if they get too in her face. The cats, on the other hand, are her jam. She crawls after them, tries to pet them, watches them, and generally just feels happier when she’s around them. She even tries to say our cat’s name, Luna. (She says “Una.”) I guess dog-person/cat-person is a trait determined at birth!

She loves food, too. Very different from Cody, who didn’t eat any solid foods until he was two years old and even to this day is extremely limited in what he will eat. Abigail is all about food. She will happily try anything we put in front of her, and she almost always likes it. We feed her baby finger foods and soft table foods, since she doesn’t have any teeth. She likes to self-feed, so we don’t often feed her purees.

This month she had her first trip to the beach, and she loved it. She loves trying to eat the sand, and having us dip her feet into the ocean water. She’s also been to the zoo several times. She doesn’t get it yet, of course, but it’s a fun activity for our family.

One detail I forgot to mention in a previous post was that she moved out of her infant car seat to a convertible car seat, still rear-facing of course, at about 9 ½ months old. She’s been more content in the car since the switch, and overall she is a great passenger. We don’t do a lot of driving or long trips, but for errands around town she does great and rarely cries.

She is still very clingy, and I spend a lot of time holding her. It can be challenging to get anything done! But, she also loves to play and explore, so it’s often a matter of taking advantage of those moments. She goes into the nursery at church on Sundays and does well, which is awesome! She will usually let other people hold her, but once she sees me again, it’s all over. She’s less mom-focused now at least, and doesn’t have as strong of a preference for me over her dad. In fact, she crawls to him and asks to be picked up as soon as he comes home every day! Then she snuggles on his chest. So sweet!

Opposite Day

I love the fruit of the spirit. In the Bible, we are given a list of characteristics that the Holy Spirit is supposed to produce in us. These characteristics are the Fruit of the Spirit. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

I love this part of the Bible because it gives me a clear goal for what I should be working towards as a follower of Christ. I should be living in such a way, and inviting the Holy Spirit into my life on a daily basis, so that these traits are visible in my life.

But sometimes, I think it’s easy to see a list like this and think that it seems too unattainable. I’ll never be a person who embodies all of these traits all of the time. It can be somewhat discouraging.

One thing I like to do to combat that is to look at the opposites of these words. When I frame it in this way, as a list of things I should avoid being and doing, it can actually make it easier to pursue these traits in my life. For example, instead of thinking “I need to love everyone,” I can think “I need to turn away from hate.” It feels so much more attainable when I think of it in that way.

 

Love.
Fight against hate and apathy.

Joy.
Say no to despair and discontent.

Peace.
Reject fear and anxiety.

Patience.
Don’t be easily provoked, or impatient.

Kindness.
Refuse to be rude or inconsiderate.

Goodness.
Be an enemy of evil behavior and cruelty.

Gentleness.
Avoid harshness and violence.

Faithfulness.
Despise disloyalty. Don’t give up.

Self-Control.
Choose not to be impulsive. Do battle against addiction, rage, and laziness.

 

While opposites don’t convey the complete mission we are given with these Fruits of the Spirit, they are a solid place to start. These are the things I am working toward today, with God’s spirit working in me.

The Freedom to Change My Mind

Lately, I’ve been discovering that I have the freedom to change my mind. Maybe this sounds weird to you. Of course I can change my mind, why wouldn’t I be able to?

Well, for me, I guess I have always felt that changing my mind was almost a form of lying. I’ve felt that when I make a decision, I should stick to it. I don’t want to be known as a person who just says things, and then doesn’t follow through. That’s a pet peeve of mine, in fact.

But lately, I’ve realized that sometimes, changing my mind is okay. It doesn’t mean I’m an unreliable person, it means I’m a changing person. I evolve, and grow, my situation changes, and so on. I am now embracing my freedom to change my mind!

It feels good.

I’ve changed my mind about two things, recently. One is kind of small, and the other is pretty big.

The small one was adopting a kitten. I have said many times that I didn’t want more than one cat. I have also said that I don’t need any more pets right now. And, I have said that I don’t ever want to adopt a kitten, because grown cats are better for several reasons. Well, I changed my mind. And it was a great decision!

I love my new kitten, Leo. He’s very outgoing, friendly, and affectionate. Every time I get a new pet, I feel that our family is more complete. Many people may not understand why I would want four dogs and two cats, especially when I already have two young children to look after. But I love pets! I find joy in taking care of them and providing them a good home. I love knowing that my children will grow up being comfortable around animals, including dogs of all sizes.

For now, we have to stop adding to our pets, simply because we cannot legally own any more dogs. The limit is four in our city. As for cats, we don’t have room in this house for a third litter box, so two is our maximum. And I am not comfortable housing small animals without providing them their own secure room, after what happened to the guinea pigs. So as long as we live where we do, we are at capacity.

But I am not going to say that there won’t be any more additions once we eventually move to a bigger home. We have a dream of moving to a ranch house and owning some livestock, and adding several more small animals to our family. Until then, I’m quite content with things as they are.

The bigger decision I recently changed my mind about is having more children. I said that after Abigail, I was done with pregnancy. But I still want at least one more baby, and something doesn’t feel right to me about adopting a newborn when I know that I am able to have children biologically. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with it, but I just don’t feel like it’s what we’re supposed to do. I still want to adopt older children later on, but right now, I’m not done with raising babies.

And truthfully, even though pregnancy is really hard for me, and birth is also challenging, it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’m not ready to be done with it. I want to do it again!

The one thing I want to do different for baby #3 is to wait until Abigail is done nursing before getting pregnant. I had to wean Cody before I was really ready (even though he was over two years old), because it was too painful to nurse when I became pregnant with Abigail. I convinced myself that I would nurse him again when the baby was born, but by that time, it didn’t feel right to go back and of course I never did nurse him again.

Also, being pregnant when he was that age, just barely done being a baby, was hard. I was detached from him because of my discomfort, and I feel like I missed that stage of his life. I feel like weaning and then my pregnancy really changed our relationship in a way I wasn’t ready for.

So, I want to avoid that this time around. As such, we are planning to wait until Abigail is about three years old to start trying to conceive. If she hasn’t weaned herself by then, I am comfortable weaning her when I get pregnant. Cody will also be six years old by the time I’m pregnant with baby #3, and that will make things a lot easier.

Right now, Cory is on board with having another baby, but he isn’t convinced about having a fourth. I will be 29 during my next pregnancy if all goes according to plan. I’d want a similar age gap between #3 and #4, and I don’t really care to have another baby past age 35, so that gives us a lot of time to decide what we want to do. Personally, I am hoping for four babies, but who knows what will happen. Only God, of course. 🙂

The future looks bright! I feel energized by looking ahead, planning, and dreaming. I’m discovering that giving myself the freedom to change my mind makes it even more fun. I am still on the adventure of life, discovering what God has for me.